As governments begin to prepare for the upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial (MC 11) in December, USCIB Senior Vice President Rob Mulligan traveled to Geneva last week for the WTO’s annual Public Forum, as well as related meetings organized by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). Mulligan also met separately with a range of officials from the WTO, U.S. government, foreign governments and international organizations.
The issues mentioned most often in these meetings as having the potential for some type of action at the Ministerial included investment facilitation, fisheries subsidies, e-commerce, services facilitation and agriculture. However, it also seems that each of these are facing challenges that could prevent a deliverable at MC 11.
Discussions during the Public Forum around the impact of trade often looked at the impact of technology and the need for better approaches to education and training, as well as more effective safety nets for those losing jobs. Additionally, some countries, including the United States, voiced the need for institutional reform at the WTO. According to Mulligan, it was suggested that business could play an important role in pressing for reforms.
“While the Ministerial may not produce a number of deliverables, business engagement will be needed to ensure that the WTO moves forward after the Ministerial on issues that address meaningful concerns with the global trading system,” said Mulligan. “This will be important to preserving the relevance and value of the WTO in opening global markets,” he added.
In addition to the Public Forum, ICC hosted a panel that highlighted the report they had sponsored in March with a range of ideas for the WTO to take up at the December Ministerial. Panelists also discussed the importance of investment protections and cross-border data flows to business. ICC noted that they will be working with the government of Argentina in organizing a Business Day in Buenos Aires on December 12 that will deliver recommendations to the WTO on future work.
This year’s WTO Ministerial will be hosted by Argentina.